Why we should celebrate the Future of Work

The future of work has become a pressing priority because technology has shifted the skills and jobs that we’ve come to know. How does the need for digital skills and what they can achieve impact small and growing businesses (SGBs)? What role do the private and public sectors have in ensuring job seekers are prepared for startup employment when the nature of work is changing?

I talked with Tayo Olosunde, Executive Director/ Innovation Lead of Mind the gap, and Njideka Harry, President and CEO of Youth for Technology Foundation, during a discussion at the ANDE conference. We reflected on how to support SGBs to prepare job seekers to secure dignified employment in the digital age.

The digital economy can democratize access to employment. People are able to work from anywhere, spend fewer hours completing the same tasks, and forego expensive training to develop the same skills. Our role is to make this transition seamless especially for those that are likely to get left behind.

Reasons why the digital economy offers great opportunities:

  1. It democratizes job access.

  2. It offers agile business opportunities that don't require a lot of infrastructure. You can also tap into the freelancer economy yourself to help launch your business. Need a website created? Need marketing support? We can complete this tasks more rapidly and cheaper than ever before.

  3. The world becomes your market. You can connect to clients rapidly and monetize services more easily than ever before.

  4. You home becomes your workplace. With more flexibility around your schedule, it’s easier to establish work/life balance.

  5. Skills can be learned without formal schooling. This creates opportunities for labor inclusion for those that are Neither in Education, Employed or Trained.

  6. Open learning platforms reduce the resources necessary to learn a new skill and land a better job. It also opens the door for upskilling and accessing promotions much faster.

  7. People can collaborate across borders and across sectors. More diverse teams are smarter and generate better concepts.

What small and growing businesses (SGBs) have to do to respond to the fast pace of digitalization 

  1. Think differently about the business models and how to use the digital economy to tap into new market opportunities and talent, to create jobs, or to train employees.

  2. Keep the infrastructure simple and modular so that it’s easier to test and iterate.

  3. Explore and integrate new forms of recruitment, operations, marketing, and product development.

  4. Reduce or eliminate the need for hierarchical structures  

  5. Work in partnership. Share talent, work spaces, technology, professional services among each other.

  6. If your SGB is training and placing youth into employment, ensure that your curriculum is aligned with private sector needs. Use a co-creation process that engages partners.

  7. Teaching people how to learn is more important than the content itself. To limit unemployment with the rise of automation, people should have the ability to transition swiftly into new opportunities. In summary, entrepreneurial skills will be necessary for all jobs.

  8. Up-skilling needs to take existing skills into account and build from them.

  9. Need to make sure that we tend to the communities that are digitally excluded not only those with access to technology and start as soon as possible.

  10. Identify where the trends are going. Countries are at different phases, sectors need different kinds of technology (i.e. agriculture, health care etc)

The future of work does not have to be negative and we don’t have to wait for large institutions to make the transition. Young people are already doing this and large institutions will need to catch up.

How to proceed?

As a sector, we need to create a medium-term vision and long-term vision. It won’t happen overnight, but we need to start working towards the goals that we can achieve in the next 5 years, the next 15 years, and the next 50 years (why not?!).

With these time frames, we will need to account for a world with more worker-owned businesses, universal basic income, and blockchain.

Share your ideas of some trends you believe must be accounted for as we create a roadmap for an equitable digital economy.